It took a while for 5-year-old Tristan to do something as simple as say “hello,” but with the help of music therapy, he learned to say “hello” and “goodbye.”
“He could produce sounds that you were making,” said Kristy Hill, Tristan’s mother. “He could copy you and say ‘mom,’ but he didn’t know what that meant. He couldn’t tell me that he was thirsty or hungry.”
With early intervention Tristan was diagnosed with autism. The speech therapist then determined Tristan was nonverbal and they went to work. Specialist Stacey Callaway says early intervention is the key for children with Autism and suggests that as soon as you see symptoms of Autism, that’s the best time to jump in.
“What we know is as soon as we can get in and intervene with any disruptions that they have in learning then that’s going to give them the opportunity to capitalize on skills they already have,” she said.
Before starting therapy, Tristan had a fascination with numbers and has since learned how to use them appropriately. “He would stack cars or he would arrange trains just so he could count them,” Hill said. “But now he is doing math when the teacher assigns it. We saw Tristan blending in with classmates without special need, running laps around the gym in PE class. It’s a life changer because even a year ago we didn’t know where he would be. We wondered would we be taking care of him his entire life, and it’s not something we need to worry about any more.”
When Tristan learned to speak, the tantrums he once had stopped. “He went through some spitting; he went through some screaming,” said Beth Whidmann, a teacher. “So, we just set those boundaries of like, ‘If you’re going to do that, you’re not going to get anything rewarding.'”
These rewards helped to encourage good behavior and a lack of rewards helped to discourage bad behavior. For Tristan his reward is blowing bubbles and he looks forward to music therapy.
One of Tristan’s biggest signs of growth is that he will now sit in a circle with his classmates. “This is really a big deal,” Whidmann said. “A couple of years ago, he was isolated in a corner doing his own thing.”
“It makes me feel great,” Hill said. “it’s something we really thought we would never see.”